News Hostage

KPRC RSVPs

Of course, it was borderline mawkish -- it was local TV, after all.

Matters of taste aside, there was something striking about the August 27 edition of Channel 13's The Debra Duncan Show, which consisted of a tribute to longtime Channel 11 anchor Sylvan Rodriguez, who's now battling cancer.

At the end of the show, more than two dozen anchors, weatherpeople and TV reporters from all over the city joined Rodriguez on stage, standing silently behind him in a show of support.

They were there from Channel 13. Channel 11, naturally. And Channel 26, the Fox station.

But what was striking was there was no one from Channel 2.

"My assistant got a call from [Channel 2 anchor] Bill Balleza, and he said to send his best wishes to Sylvan but that Steve Wasserman was not allowing them to participate," says Wendy Granato, senior producer on the Duncan show. "We got a couple of calls from the anchors there saying they were sorry."

Wasserman is KPRC's general manager. He says no one at Channel 2 ever told him that they wanted to go on the show. He turned down the Duncan show, he says, because he thought it would involve only people from Channels 11 and 13, places Rodriguez had worked during his long career here.

No one at the Duncan show knows how he might have got that idea, but Wasserman's sticking to his story. "Rightly or wrongly, I got the impression that it was a reunion show for Sylvan Rodriguez, and I knew that he had worked at 11 and 13, so it seemed that Channel 2 was the odd man out," he says.

No one at KPRC complained about the decision, he says. "I declined to participate, but if someone here thought that was wrong and wanted to participate, no one ever made that request to me," he says, effectively painting his staffers as a group of cowed underlings.

"We were kind of surprised," Granato says of KPRC's refusal. "The theme of the show was 'the walls of competition come tumbling down to lend support to Sylvan,' but I guess some walls don't tumble as easily."

That sounds like one heckuva theme, but then again we don't work in TV.

Wasserman, it's not surprising, is quick to avert that no disrespect was meant to Rodriguez.

"If someone is choosing to read something sinister into what happened, that's unfortunate," he says. "We have great admiration for Sylvan Rodriguez here, for the battle he's going through and how he's working to raise the profile of cancer patients."

Just don't ask them to show up on another station, though.

Storm Damage, Part 2

Local stations who felt snubbed by Hurricane Bret's decision to avoid Corpus Christi this month had the chance to make up for it when a freakishly strong thunderstorm blasted through Houston August 31.

There were a couple of memorable moments. There was Channel 2 anchor Khambrel Marshall, talking on the phone to some public official who urged people to stay in their homes and off the roads until the storm passed.

After the interview, the station cut to a live shot of traffic on the West Loop. "As you can see, the highway is full of people who apparently have not taken the advice" of the official, he said disapprovingly. Why the hell those people could not watch Channel 2 on their in-car, front-seat TVs as they tried to drive through a blinding rainstorm, we'll never know. These stations try and they try to provide public-service safety tips, but does anyone listen? Apparently not.

There was also the live phone report from Channel 13's Wayne Dolcefino, calling in from his Fort Bend County home. "The cable went out about six minutes ago!" he told viewers.

Right in the middle of a very special Golden Girlson Lifetime! Oh, the humanity!

Then came that night's Fox News report on Channel 26. Among the various victim interviews was an utterly straightforward Q&A with a man identified as "Nick Lee, psychic."

He said he'd never seen such damage from a thunderstorm. And no, he apparently wasn't asked if he saw it coming.

Goo Goo Ga-Joob

The Houston Chronicle's Ken Hoffman is in the midst of a barrage of columns about going to Liverpool for some festival celebrating the Beatles. He wrote at length about visiting the childhood home of Paul McCartney.

This should surprise absolutely no one who has followed Hoffman's career at the Chronicle and the Post. A year-by-year recap of his columns:

1989: Hoffman purchases Paul McCartney's new single while touring Liverpool.

1990: McCartney makes his Texas Stadium concert a real event -- stage bombs explode as he plays "Live and Let Die."

1991: Paul McCartney -- Going Homeis "a memorable behind-the-scenes look at Beatle Paul's 1990 World Tour."

1992: The Disney Channel's head of programming says, "If you're a Beatles fan, get your VCRs ready" for this week's programs, including the McCartney documentary Get Back.

1993: "For the next two weeks, in honor of Paul McCartney's concert April 22 at the Astrodome, all [trivia] questions will be about the Beatles."

1994: Hoffman visits the club in Hamburg, Germany, that the Beatles played before hitting it big; McCartney came back the previous year and paid his decades-old bar tab.

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